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Act as If

One of the guiding principles of being entrepreneurial I’ve been espousing in this blog is to “act as if” you were the CEO and founder, no matter what your position, title or tenure.  It’s what entrepreneurs do every day.  They act as if they have been there before. Act as if they know what they are doing.  Some call it “fake it till you make it” – but it’s about the power of positive thinking and self-fulfilling thoughts.  And it can be applied in the everyday work life of all of us.  Perhaps you could restate the notion as “think about every situation as if you were the CEO and entrepreneur”.  How you would approach a conflict, an opportunity, the way you communicate and lead?  You get the point.  And I love the phrase “act as if” and all that it entails.

In the movie Boiler Room there are a few amazing scenes featuring Ben Affleck, none better than the scene where Ben’s character, Jim Young, tells a bunch of the young recruits at the brokerage firm, “act as if you are the President of this firm”.  [He also says some other things to fire up the guys in the room, and uses enough foul language that I'll leave the link out to the youtube video.]  And while it’s not the deepest scene in cinema history, I always think of this scene when I think about the importance of “acting as if”.

Then I saw this post this morning from Fortune/CNN Money, written by Anne Fisher, about the importance of how you should approach a new job, either as a result of a promotion or a change in jobs.  And it got me thinking again about the importance of acting as if.  Why wait until you get that promotion or change jobs to start doing the kinds of smart things outlined in Anne Fisher’s post?  Why not go into work tomorrow and “act as if” it was the first day of your job.  Act as if you had just been recruited into your current position, or just promoted into it, and do all of those things you would do if it was a brand new job and you wanted to make a great first impression, hit the ground running and make some serious traction from day one.  Even if it’s not day one, you can always act as if it was.

So I googled “act as if” after reading that post on fortune/cnnmoney.  First, I found the youtube videos of the two scenes from Boiler Room that I was talking about.  Which then lead me to this video.  A trailer for the short documentary, “Act as If” by Melissa Johnson about Kathy Delaney-Smith, the coach of the Harvard women’s basketball team.  Wow.  This is an amazing story of a woman who didn’t have experience coaching basketball, but acted as if she could, and went on to lead her team to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA basketball tournament history.  She then went on to harness her own “act as if” philosophy while taking cancer head on.  I’ll never think about anything else other than this coach and her amazing story when thinking about the power of acting as if.

In a New York Times article from 2009, Melissa Johnson writes about Delaney-Smith’s philosophy:  “Any decent athlete, salesman or Starbucks barista can put on a good game face. But her philosophy, “act as if,” goes much deeper than mere swagger or theatrics. It’s a method — a learned skill for convincing your mind that you already are what you want to become. The body follows where the mind leads.”  Similarly, author Mike Robbins wrote a fantastic post about this topic in the Huffington Post in 2010.

Fires me up, and reminds me of how I want to act myself.  I’ll double down on this philosophy myself right now.

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Discussion4 Responses to "Act as If"

  1. Enjoyed reading this post. Most importantly, your observation on – How you would approach a conflict, an opportunity, the way you communicate and lead? is right on the money. A founder/CEO of business- no matter big or small NEEDS to take decisions – against all odds. Ability to do so in the absence of perfect conditions is a skill that makes or breaks a business. I believe same, when applied to any role could deliver much better outcome.

  2. That’s exactly the mentality I took when I made a Facebook page for my specific and really awesome Starbucks location. (SouthUnionStarbucks) I’m just a barista, but I decided it needed to be done. FWIW I wrote corporate to cover my bases but never heard anything.

  3. Adam – I love this post and it’s something I think everyone should aspire to. I’m embarrassed to admit that I spent the last hour looking through books I read recently for an anecdote that I found relevant, but I came up empty.

    The general gist of it was that there were two senior executives (President and CEO I believe) of a major corporation that was in deep trouble. In anticipation of a pending board meeting, one said ruefully to the other that they were likely about to get fired. In commiseration, they began discussing what their successor would do to turn things around. After discussing all of the great things that a successor would do to fix things, one said to the other “Well, why don’t we just do that?”.

    In the end, it was sheer momentum of their previous decisions and the stances that they had made that were causing their problems and when they looked at things with a fresh perspective, putting themselves in their successors’ shoes, they found all of the solutions they needed.

    Now… if I could only find the actual story…

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